HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
April 9, 2007, Herald Journal

Make story time a fun time

By JENNI SEBORA

I love to equate book time with snuggle time, especially with my children.

Usually before bedtime, my children grab their favorite books, and we snuggle and read. Many times we all hop on the “story bed” (mom and dad’s big bed) to read our stories together.

This reading environment helps create a “reading is fun and enjoyable” atmosphere and value. We want children to value reading and enjoy it. We want children to feel that reading is fun.

What can we do to instill the joy of reading in children? Last week, the article focused on things we can do with our wee little ones, babies and toddlers. This article will focus on the joy of reading with kindergarten-aged children and beyond.

We know reading aloud together, being reading examples ourselves, as well as by doing other activities together will all help instill the value and joy of reading.

We need to fill story time with a variety of books and be consistent and patient with our children during this special time of reading together.

In the US Department of Education booklet, “Helping Your Child Learn to Read” by Bernice Cullinan and Brod Bagert, the importance of keeping fun in the parent-child reading time is stressed. Here is a story that was printed in this booklet to keep in mind:

Shamu is a performing whale, to the delight of many. However, she sometimes gets distracted and refuses to do her tricks. When that happens, her trainers stand around in dripping wetsuits and wait for her stubbornness to pass. They know that when a 5,000-pound whale decides she doesn’t want to flip her tail on cue, there is very little anyone can do about it. But whales like to play, and sooner or later Shamu returns to the game of performing for her audience. Shamu’s trainers know this so they’re always patient, they’re always confident, and they always make performing fun.

It was stressed that although helping our child with the reading process is different from training a whale, the same qualities of patience, confidence and fun will get the same results.

If your child loses interest for a while, take a break. Given some breathing room, their interest will most likely be renewed.

Here are some other important statements the booklet noted to keep in mind when helping your child in reading:

• Listening to your child read aloud provides opportunities for you to express appreciation of their new skills and, of course, for them to practice reading. Most importantly, it’s another way to enjoy reading together.

• Talking about what you read with your child is another way to help your child develop language and thinking skills. But you don’t need to plan the discussion, discuss every story or expect an answer. Talking about stories helps children link stories to everyday life and use what they know about the world to make sense of the stories.

• Collecting books can be an important family activity which sends the message that books are important and fun. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Garage sales and library sales are also great sources of books.

• Telling family stories is important and can enrich the lives of everyone involved. Last year, from a library book sale, our family purchased a memory album, which contains questions to ask grandparents or another important figure in your child’s life questions about their life and how they grew up.

We have labeled this journal “Grandma Iris’s Story.” Grandma Iris is my 85-year old mother who lives with us in “her area” so we have daily access to complete this journal and this journey.

We just started writing in this album a few weeks ago, and it has been a wonderful experience for all of us. We are learning many things about Grandma and about history in this process. We will have this journal of Grandma’s memories forever.

I encourage anyone to take your own children on a memory journey with their elders. It is so worthwhile, and a newfound respect and knowledge can be found and learned about our older generation.

I am learning new things about my mother that I never knew by just taking the time to ask questions and document those memories.

• It is also very worthwhile to listen to our own children tell stories. Having a good audience is very helpful to improve language skills as well as poise in speaking. We as parents can be the best audience our children will ever have, the booklet noted.

• Writing helps a child become a better reader, and reading helps a child become a better writer. Writing can be scary and seem so difficult to children, so always express your appreciation of their efforts.

As preschoolers, have children dictate stories to you. Have children make birthday cards. Use a family message board or chalkboard to involve children in writing with a purpose.

Keep writing utensils, such as paper, pencils, and crayons within easy reach to promote writing.

Have fun reading with your precious ones.